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I.21. Leo Senex


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 481.


Quicumque amisit dignitatem pristinam,

ignavis etiam iocus est in casu gravi.

Defectus annis et desertus viribus

leo cum iaceret spiritum extremum trahens,

aper fulmineis spumans venit dentibus,

et vindicavit ictu veterem iniuriam.

Infestis taurus mox confodit cornibus

hostile corpus. Asinus, ut vidit ferum

impune laedi, calcibus frontem extudit.

At ille exspirans "Fortis indigne tuli

mihi insultare: Te, Naturae dedecus,

quod ferre certe cogor bis videor mori".


Here is the poem in a more prose-like word order for easy reading:


Quicumque amisit pristinam dignitatem,

in gravi casu

est iocus

etiam ignavis.

Cum leo,

defectus annis et desertus viribus,


trahens extremum spiritum,

aper venit

spumans fulmineis dentibus,

et vindicavit veterem iniuriam ictu.

Mox taurus confodit hostile corpus

infestis cornibus.


ut vidit ferum laedi impune,

extudit frontem calcibus.

At ille exspirans:

"Indigne tuli

fortis insultare mihi;

Naturae dedecus,

quod cogor

te ferre,

certe videor mori bis."


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Quicum~qu(e) ami~sit dig~nita~tem pris~tinam,

igna~vis et~jam io~cus 'st in ~ casu gravi.

Defec~tus an~nis et ~ deser~tus vi~ribus

leo ~ cum ia~ceret ~ spir't(um) ex~tremum ~ trahens,

aper ~ fulm'ne~is spu~mans ve~nit den~tibus,

et vin~dica~vit ic~tu vet'~r(em) inju~riam.

Infes~tis tau~rus mox ~ confo~dit cor~nibus

hosti~le cor~pus. As'~nus, ut ~ vidit ~ ferum

impu~ne lae~di, cal~cibus ~ front(em) ex~tudit.

At il~l(e) exspi~rans "For~tis in~digne ~ tuli

mih(i) in~sulta~re: Te, ~ Natu~rae de~decus,

quod fer~re cer~te co~gor bis ~ videor ~ mori".




If someone who has lost their former dignity gets into serious trouble, he is a laughing stock even to contemptible people. When a lion, enfeebled by old age and having lost his strength, was stretched out on the ground, taking his last breath, a boar approached, foaming at the mouth with his flashing tusks, and avenged an old injury by stabbing the lion. Next came a bull who gored his enemy's body with deadly horns. When the donkey saw that the wild lion could be wounded with impunity, he struck the lion's head with his hooves. Gasping his last breath, the lion said: "I undeservedly endured having the strong animals insult me - but you! you disgrace to the natural world! The fact that I have to put up with you makes me seem indeed to have died twice over."


[This translation is meant as a help in understanding the story, not as a "crib" for the Latin. I have not hesitated to change the syntax to make it flow more smoothly in English, altering the verb tense consistently to narrative past tense, etc.]


The Old Lion (trans. C. Smart)

Whoever, to his honor's cost,

His pristine dignity has lost,

Is the fool's jest and coward's scorn,

When once deserted and forlorn.

With years enfeebled and decay'd,

A Lion gasping hard was laid:

Then came, with furious tusk, a boar,

To vindicate his wrongs of yore:

The hull was next in hostile spite,

With goring horn his foe to smite:

At length the ass himself, secure

That now impunity was sure,

His blow too insolently deals,

And kicks his forehead with his heel.

Then thus the Lion, as he died:

"'Twas hard to bear the brave," he cried;

But to be trampled on by thee

Is Nature's last indignity;

And thou, 0 despicable thing,

Giv'st death at least a double sting."




Here is an illustration from an early printed edition; click on the image for a larger view.




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